Disaster at Wounded Knee
Such violent conflicts were common throughout many territories,
and it was not long before the last official military action against
Native Americans took place on December 29, 1890. Government officials
banned a growing religion known as the Ghost Dance on a
South Dakota reservation that month.
As part of the crackdown against the Ghost Dance, the
army arrested Chief Big Foot and his Lakota tribesmen and confined
them to a camp near Wounded Knee Creek. The day after the arrest,
the military attempted to recover the prisoners weapons.
A gun was accidentally discharged and soldiers opened fire. When
the shooting stopped, more than 300 Lakota Indians were dead.
The massacre exemplified a culture at
war with the Native Americans on various fronts. Books such as
of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars
(1894) describes the physical and psychological warfare involved
in fighting Native Americans in the territories:
He told me he hanged all of
his prisoners, because the Indians had a great and superstitious
horror of hanging; for they believe that no man's soul will be
received into the happy hunting grounds that does not pass through
the throat, which is impossible when that route is closed by a
rope; it must seek another road of exit, and all such souls are
rejected at the gates of Paradise. He said a fine moral effect
was produced upon the Indians by this method of execution.